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By Asfaw Bekel and Wayne H. Hudnall


The calcareous prairies of Louisiana are among the most endangered and the least understood ecosystems in North America. The major threat to this ecosystem is the invasion of woody plants,-primarily eastern red cedar Uunipems virginiana L.). We studied the verbcal profile of soil organic C (SOC) and the stable carbon isotope (613C) from soil organic matter (SOM) to infer the vegetation history and to understand the C dynamics of these prairies. SOC decreased with depth (0-100 cm), but variation due to vegetation type (prairie, transition, forest) and landscape position were not statistically significant. The mean total SOC stock within the 0-30 cm depth from three sites, three vegetation types, and two landscape positions was 7.6 +- 0.4 kg/m * (mean rt SE, n = 18). The SOM 613C values within the 0-10 cm depth showed that although the forest vegetation was exclusively C3, the transition and the prairie vegetation were composed of a mixture of C3 and C4 plant functional forms. Statistical comparison of SOM 6l3C values from the forest, transition, and prairie with depth showed that the SOM 6'3C from the prairie and transition are significantly different from that of the forest up to the 30-40 cm depth. SOM 6I3C values of the prairie and transition were not significantly different at all depths, suggesting that the invasion of C3 trees and shrubs observed within the transition may be a recent phenomenon coinciding with fire suppression. SOM 6I3C below 30-40 cm indicated that in the past, a C4 community might have dominated the entire site. (Soi

Year: 2003
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